The Questions Surrounding The Death Of Grant Wahl | Crooked Media
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December 12, 2022
What A Day
The Questions Surrounding The Death Of Grant Wahl

In This Episode

  • The sports world continues to mourn American soccer journalist Grant Wahl, whose body was returned to the U.S. after he died while covering the World Cup in Qatar. Although whatever caused his sudden death remains a mystery, his family hopes that a pending autopsy will give them answers.
  • Over half a million people have signed a petition calling for New York Governor Kathy Hochul to grant clemency to Nikki Addimando. She’s been in prison since 2017 for fatally shooting her longtime partner, which she claims was self-defense.
  • And in headlines: Iran carried out its second execution tied to the mass protests over Mahsa Amini,  China rolled back more of its strict “zero Covid” policies, and scientists have reportedly achieved a major clean energy breakthrough.


Show Notes:



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Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Tuesday, December 13th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson. And this is What A Day. Hoping that the arrest of Sam Bankman-Fried yesterday serves as a warning to anyone else who wants to become really rich while really young. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, the lesson here is to give all your money to me, and I will take care of it and make sure that you don’t get arrested in the Bahamas. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know what, Josie? I’d give you a couple dollars. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Thank you. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You can’t have all my money, but you can have a couple of dollars. [laughing] [music break]


Josie Duffy Rice: On today’s show, scientists may have unlocked the key to a limitless source of clean energy. Plus, Elon Musk bombed his standup comedy debut in San Francisco. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s what he deserves. But first, more on a story that has a lot of people sad and confused. The sudden death of soccer journalist Grant Wahl. On Monday his body was returned to the United States after he died over the weekend while covering the World Cup in Qatar. And for some people, the fact that he is no longer alive and that we don’t know his cause of death is quite suspicious. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s a very tragic story and a huge loss. What do we know right now? 


Tre’vell Anderson: So as we mentioned on the show yesterday, we know that Wahl was rushed to the hospital on Friday after he collapsed during the quarterfinal match between Argentina and the Netherlands. He was 49 years old and had just celebrated his birthday a few days before. Wahl, by the way, was a journalist with Sports Illustrated for more than two decades, also had stints at Fox Sports and CBS before starting his own thing, a newsletter and podcast by the name of Fútbol with Grant Wahl, one of his colleagues called him, quote, “America’s preeminent soccer journalist.” We also know that Wahl said he wasn’t feeling the best earlier in the week before he died. Apparently, he was writing daily articles and recording for his podcast every other day from Qatar throughout the World Cup, sleeping about 5 hours a night. And so he thought it was all due to exhaustion. He even said in his newsletter that he’d sought medical attention for what he thought might be bronchitis and that he was starting to feel better after taking some standard meds. And it is that information that has people confused, Josie, because he said he was feeling better and then days later, he’s dead. And so it’s prompted many people to also make note of the fact that Wahl had also recently made headlines during the World Cup after he was detained by security officials and questioned about a rainbow t shirt he wore to a game in support of LGBTQ rights in a country, Qatar we’re talking about, where being gay is a crime. Wahl, whose brother is gay refused to change his shirt and they released him 25 minutes later. Folks have also noted that Wahl had recently covered the indifference of Qatari World Cup leadership, who to him didn’t seem to care about recent migrant worker deaths related to the competition. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s certainly a confounding story. So what exactly is all of this is supposed to tell us? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, that is where the speculation comes into play. You know, even from Wahl’s own brother initially that some sort of foul play might be afoot here, especially since we still don’t know the cause of death yet. So folks are wondering if Wahl having publicly criticized the Qatari government and being a vocal LGBTQ ally might have made him a target of some sort. Now that allegation is questionable in itself because we know that there are a lot of journalists at the World Cup right now who have also been critical of Qatar and FIFA, the sport’s organizing body. And so then the question would be, assuming you believe, you know, something is wonky about all of this, why Wahl specifically? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And there aren’t really answers to any of that yet. But none of this speculation was made any better when on Monday it was announced that a second journalist, a local photojournalist, also recently died covering the World Cup. There’s no proof that the two deaths are related, but the timing for many is uncanny. And let’s face the facts, right? Qatar is an authoritarian monarchy and they don’t take too kindly to the hashtag gay agenda. But as some Qataris have noted, as we wait to learn more about the causes of death for both men, it would behoove us not to lean on stereotypes about Arab and Muslim countries. Folks can get real xenophobic, for example. And not only is that not needed, but it’s not productive to figuring out how Wahl died. But like I said, his body and possessions are back in the U.S. His brother said on Twitter that he and Wahl’s wife will take the body for medical examination and autopsy. So we’ll be sure to keep y’all posted as we learn more. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s such a huge loss and so sad for his family. Now on to another story. We are nearing the end of the year. And just like I did last year, I wanted to check in on one of the most important powers our president and many of our governors have, clemency power. I especially wanted to look at the fight for clemency for a woman named Nikki Addimando, which is happening as we speak. Nikki has been in prison in New York State since 2017 when she was arrested for shooting and killing Chris Grover. Grover was Nikki’s longtime partner, the father of her children, and had a history of seriously, seriously abusing Nikki. Some very upsetting details. So fast forward by a minute or so if you don’t want to hear. The abuse that Nikki suffered included a dislocated shoulder, severe genital trauma, bite marks, and strangulation marks. And Grover even uploaded public videos of him essentially torturing her to popular porn websites. The day before the fatal shooting. Nikki told Grover that she wanted to take a break and take the kids and get away from him for a while. Grover responded by loading a handgun in front of her and telling her how he would kill her and make it look like suicide. Then he threatened to kill her and kill himself so that the kids would have no one. She says he pointed a gun at her and the two struggled and that she ended up shooting him. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. So now this to me at least, seems like a clear example of self-defense, but I know it hasn’t been interpreted that way. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, you would think that. And it’s especially important to keep in mind, right, like the abuse that she suffered was documented by the people in her lives, her therapists, her doctors, her midwife, her family, her friends. But instead, she was charged with murder and sentenced to 19 years to life. And that’s not super uncommon. We see all the time that women especially are charged with murder after they defend themselves against an abusive partner. That sentence was eventually overturned and Nikki was re-sentenced to seven and a half years, which is obviously way better than 19 years to life. But she’s still in prison, right? Meanwhile, her kids are seven and nine and have had to grow up without either of their parents. It’s a lot. You know, she should have never gone to prison at all. Over half a million people have signed a petition for her release. And there’s a big effort right now to push Governor Kathy Hochul to grant her clemency and let her out of prison so that she can finally mother her children and try to recover from what she suffered. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So now, is there a reason that the fight for her release is happening right now? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, well, we often see clemency grants at like the end of the year. That’s especially true when the people with clemency power are nearing the end of their term. And so both of those kind of apply right now in New York, right. Governor Hochul is ending her first term since becoming governor. Now would be kind of a natural time for her to pardon Nikki or commute her sentence. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Gotcha. So now what about across the country? How is clemency looking there? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it really depends on the state. But in general, we don’t see the clemency power exercised like it once was. Right. It used to be that governors and the president would grant clemency to thousands of people sometimes, like it was a very used power. But as we’ve seen mass incarceration increase, we’ve seen the power of clemency used less and less, which feels like the opposite of what should be happening. In Alabama, for example, in just the past few years, the clemency rate has dropped by 80%. Every so often, you’ll see a governor, a board of Pardons grant like a significant number of people clemency. But it’s so much rarer than it once was. And there are a lot of reasons for that. Some states have removed clemency power from the governor. They’ve made it harder to grant clemency, for example. But the main reason is probably just politics. Public officials are scared of granting clemency because what if they pardon someone who later does something wrong again? Right. They’re scared of the political fallout. This is the same old tough on crime kind of politics play that we’ve seen for 40 years now. This is just one other iteration of it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. And I remember last year around this time, you noted that Biden hadn’t granted clemency to anyone in his first year of office. And that obviously has changed, especially given the marijuana pardons we saw earlier this year. So, you know, what does his record look like now? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, Biden has definitely stepped it up since last year. So as you may remember, as you mentioned, he granted a full and unconditional pardon for everyone with federal convictions for simple marijuana possession, which affected 6500 people. No one was actually serving time for that offense alone. So it didn’t actually get anyone out of prison. Right. But it did matter. It’s not nothing. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: He’s also commuted 79 other sentences. He’s pardoned three people. So this is a big improvement from zero. Like can only go up from there, but there is still a lot that this man can do. I mean, there are somewhere between 15 and 20,000 clemency petitions outstanding to President Biden. And it would be really great to see him go even bigger. I mean, he still has two weeks left in the year, but if not this year, there’s always next year. Clemency is really one of the greatest powers and kind of most remarkable powers an executive has, and it would be great to see them using it more. So we will add details about clemency and about the movement around criminalized survivors of intimate partner violence called, Survived and Punished in our show notes. Meanwhile, for more on Nikki, there’s a great podcast by Justine van der Leun called Believe Her. I highly recommend checking it out. And we will keep you posted about new pardons from the president. But in the meantime, that is the latest for now. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Josie Duffy Rice: The Iranian government on Monday executed another prisoner connected to the ongoing protests over the police killing of Mahsa Amini. Majidreza Rahnavard of was accused of fatally stabbing two security officers last month and was publicly hanged for those charges yesterday. This comes just a few days after the execution of another protester for allegedly assaulting police during the mass protests. As we mentioned before, activists warn that more jailed protesters could face execution in the future. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The Chinese government continues to roll back some of its strict zero-covid policies. Officials yesterday announced the deactivation of a national smartphone app that’s been used over the past three years to track people’s movements and use that data to identify whether someone had been in a high risk area for COVID infection. But this and other rollbacks come as China faces a potential surge in COVID cases. And there’s now growing concern that the country’s health care system could soon be overwhelmed as hospitals around China are reportedly scrambling to get enough ICU beds and equipment. 


Josie Duffy Rice: The Department of Energy is expected to announce a major scientific breakthrough today that could revolutionize clean energy. According to multiple reports, researchers at the Lawrence Livermore Lab in California have successfully produced net energy in a nuclear fusion reactor. Full disclosure, I’m not a nuclear physicist, but here’s why this is a big deal. Traditional nuclear power comes from a process called fission, which releases energy when atoms are blown apart. Fusion is when atoms are squashed together. That’s the same process that happens in the core of the sun. The key difference here is that nuclear fission produces dangerous radioactive waste. Fusion does not. Scientists around the world have been trying to figure this out since the 1950s because it promises to be one of the most powerful nonpolluting sources of renewable energy on the planet. But we are likely many, many, many years away from being able to, like, scale this up to power electric grids, for example. Some experts say that by then it might be too late anyway to reverse the effects of climate change. So good news. But we’ll see. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We will see. And the harmful effects of Crossfit on the brain were put on display once again this weekend as Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene said she would have, quote, “won the January 6th insurrection.” Didn’t know that it was a battle or a game. But here we are. Here is audio of her comments about the attack on the Capitol, which she made at a dinner organized by the New York Young Republicans Club on Saturday. 


[clip of Marjorie Taylor Greene] And I want to tell you something. If Steve Bannon and I had organized that. We would have won. [applause and cheers] Not to mention it would have been armed.


Tre’vell Anderson: Yikes. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s such a weird thing to just, like, throw in there. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. Greene did not clarify what she meant by won or why she thinks unkempt podcaster Steve Bannon would be good at guerrilla warfare. But this is all pretty rich coming from someone who texted former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on January 6th asking him to calm the riot. A spokesperson for the White House on Monday called Greene’s remarks a, quote, “slap in the face to those who lost their loved ones the day of the violent attack.” To which Greene responded by saying, quote, “The White House needs to learn how sarcasm works.” She might need to learn how sarcasm works. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I got to say, it doesn’t look good. Taylor Swift has finally been able to shake off a five year long copyright lawsuit. Songwriters Shawn Hall and Nathan Butler sued Swift back in 2017, alleging that the pop star took lyrics from the group 3LW’s 2001 Billboard hit, Playas gon’ play. If you don’t know it, learn it and used them in her 2017 song, Shake It Off. Swift sang because the player’s going to play, play, play, play, play. And the haters going to hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Meanwhile, 3LW’s lyrics are, playas they gonna play and haters they’re gonna hate. Following me? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Okay. I went all these years without ever once saying that Taylor Swift lyric [?]. [laughter] What A Day has ended my streak. So definitely similar sentiments here. Players playing, haters hating. But as a judge astutely pointed out in 2018, while dismissing the case, quote, “The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative. It is banal.” Folks, judges going to judge. Still, the case was revived in 2019 and was set to go to trial next month. Until Swift, Butler and Hall agreed to a surprise settlement yesterday with terms that have not yet been disclosed. We are all just praying that Taylor Swift made it through this without having to sell her private jet. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m just hopeful that the wonderful ladies of 3LW got some coins out of this because they deserve. Okay.


Josie Duffy Rice: Justice for 3LW for all of us that were on Napster in 2001. This is big news. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Napster? I was a LimeWire girl. 


Josie Duffy Rice: LimeWire. Yeah, I was too. 


Tre’vell Anderson: BearShare?For anyone out there. 


Josie Duffy Rice: No, I never even knew about BearShare. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, us talking about our illicit practices downloading music on a podcast. Love that for us. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. You know, I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations is over, but if it’s not, I never said this. And those are the headlines. We we’ll be back after some ads to discuss the rocky stand up comedy debut of Elon Musk. 




Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Tuesday WAD squad. And today we’re doing a segment called Bad Sound. Take a listen to today’s clip. 


[clip of Elon Musk] [crowd booing] Dang what should I say? 


[clip of Dave Chapelle] Don’t say nothing. 


[clip of Elon Musk] Okay. 


[clip of Dave Chapelle] It’ll only spoil the moment. Do you hear that sound Elon? That’s the sound of the penalties of civil unrest. I can’t wait to see which story you decimate next motherfucker, you shut the fuck up. With your boos. There’s something better that you could do. Who would have [?] the best thing you can do.


Tre’vell Anderson: Ugh. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Mmm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: They’re annoying. Both of them. 


Josie Duffy Rice: They’re both unbearable. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was, of course, a cutting edge live performance from Twitter owner Elon Musk and comedian Dave Chappelle. Chappelle inexplicably brought Musk on stage this past Sunday for a show at San Francisco’s Chase Center following a weekend in which Musk ranted online about people’s preferred pronouns, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the, quote, “woke mind virus.” Clearly, the San Francisco crowd was not picking up what Musk was putting down. And as you heard, Chappelle got mad at the crowd for not being nicer to his billionaire guest. Later, after one Twitter user described the scene as a, quote, “crowd full of boos”, Musk argued that it was actually, quote, 90% cheers and 10% boos. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Hmm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So, Josie, what are your thoughts on this clip? 


Josie Duffy Rice: I want to start with the fact that Musk also claimed that a fight broke out right when he got on stage and that’s why people were booing. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Ugh. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Just great denial. I just love it. He deleted that tweet, by the way. But also, I just don’t understand what would possess someone to invite Elon Musk on stage. But I do understand that you would think if you were willing to go see Dave Chappelle live at this point, after everything we know about Dave Chapelle, that maybe, like– 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: You’d be into Elon Musk, maybe that’d be like your vibe. So it’s even wilder to me that it felt like 90% boos to me. [laughter] At least 70%. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, so that’s the interesting part, right? Like, if you made the decision to go see Dave Chappelle after, you know, everything that we have dealt with with that gentleman um over the last year in particular, I can see Dave Chappelle thinking that his fans would be super into seeing Elon Musk on stage. Right?


Josie Duffy Rice: I can too. But I’m like, what are you gonna do? Just bring up a rich guy? Like, he’s not funny. Like, it’s so weird to just bring up a rich guy on stage.


Tre’vell Anderson: It doesn’t make any sense. 


Josie Duffy Rice: He could have, like, waved from the audience. Like, why is he up here? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Why is he up here? He obviously didn’t know what to do. Dave, what should I say? Well, I don’t know. You could stop wreaking havoc in people’s lives. I don’t know. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I found it just the weirdest judgment from top to bottom. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But I do love hearing Elon Musk booed. I love it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Okay. I feel like it took ten years off my life. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m not going to make any accusations. But I do want to say that clip kept suspiciously disappearing from Twitter yesterday. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Hmm. Just wouldn’t load sometimes and so– 


Tre’vell Anderson: I wonder why. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I wonder why. However, if there was a clip of me getting booed and I owned a social media platform, I too would probably delete that clip. So I guess that’s one thing I do understand. [laughter] That was Bad Sound. [music break]. 




Josie Duffy Rice: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Fuse some atoms and tell your friends to listen. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading and not just Taylor Swift lyrics through a legal lens like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


[spoken together] And get your reps in Elon Musk. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Maybe he will have a better career as a comedian than a tech giant person. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. And then people can just pay $8 to go see him do his comedy, and then we can just stop the rest of it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. I’m down with that plan. [music break]


Josie Duffy Rice: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.